Talking About Outdoors

Nov 1, 2023 | Portfolio, writing

Ask any local outdoors person or nature lover: there’s nothing quite like the anticipation of fall and winter in Cherokee County.

While some of us may prefer to hibernate during the colder months, many thrive in the great outdoors, knowing it is a perfect time of year to embrace nature’s beauty and engage in thrilling recreational activities.

Let’s explore some of the potential outdoor activities in Cherokee County to keep your adventurous spirit alive during the cooler months.

BEST PLACES FOR FISHING

Cherokee County is home to 103 lakes, rivers, and other fishing spots. Here are some of the most well-loved locations.

LAKE ALLATOONA

A shining gem in the heart of Cherokee County, Lake Allatoona offers some of the best fishing opportunities in the region. As cooling waters trigger fish to fatten up for the winter, October and November are prime months to target striped bass, hybrids, crappie, catfish, and Alabama bass, which are sometimes confused with Kentucky spotted bass.

ETOWAH RIVER

The Etowah River is especially attractive for folks who like to kayak fish, particularly anywhere from Knox Bridge to the headwaters of the river. According to Cherokee local and avid angler Travis Dockins, “There are trout in the upper reaches, and as you travel downstream toward Canton, Alabama bass become the main game species available. They’re really fun to catch in the river; they fight really hard because of the type of environment they live in, as they are always fighting against the current. In the fall they are particularly susceptible to topwater lures that mimic threadfin shad, such as a buzzbait. When they strike your lure, the Alabama bass will blast out of the water like a torpedo, and as they hit the water and start swimming again, you can set the hook, and the fight is on.”

The upper reaches of the Etowah and Amicalola creek, a tributary of the Etowah, are stocked with rainbow and brown trout from spring to fall, making for exciting fly fishing or bait fishing outings for anglers during these months. Largemouth bass are less prevalent but are present in the river. Bluegill, sometimes called bream, are the most abundant pan fish and there are also good numbers of redbreast sunfish, green sunfish, and redear sunfish.

BEST PLACES FOR HUNTING

Georgia has one of the largest deer populations in the country. For first-time hunters, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources [DNR] is a crucial first step for the successful completion of a hunter safety program before getting your hunting license.

For 2023 the annual limit is ten antlerless and two antlered deer for licensed hunters in Georgia, creating promising possibilities for a successful hunt. Below are some Wildlife Management Areas [WMA] to consider for your hunting grounds.

LAKE ALLATOONA WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA

Deer hunting in Cherokee County is a cherished tradition, and Lake Allatoona WMA is one of the prime spots to bag a buck or two. This WMA is located off Highway 20 headed west to Cartersville.

MCGRAW FORD WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA

Located on the Etowah River and accessible by Ball Ground Road in the northeast part of the county, the McGraw Ford WMA is a 2,070-acre property with hunting opportunities for deer, bear, turkey, small game, dove, and waterfowl. This WMA allows archery equipment only.

DAWSON FOREST WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA

Dawson Forest WMA is an alluring location for deer hunting just north of Cherokee County between Big Canoe and Dawsonville. The rolling hills and dense forests offer excellent cover for deer, making it a challenging and rewarding hunting experience.

If you’re a seasoned hunting enthusiast, you’re likely always looking for valuable insights and discussions about the sport. One local resource out of Waleska is the Talk About It Outdoors podcast hosted by Alex DeBord, Nick Wilson, Cody Watson, and friends. It has gained steady popularity among locals for engaging discussions about hunting tactics, gear, and conservation efforts. One of the highlights of the hunting calendar is an annual bow shoot, which took place on August 12 and drew 170 shooters who sought to hone their archery skills, learn from seasoned hunters, and connect with the local hunting community.

The passion for the sport runs deep in the community and is nuanced with meaning for each person who seeks it out.

“Hunting is an important aspect of wildlife conservation and land management, especially here in North Georgia. With a dense population of people moving and expanding north of Atlanta, it’s essential that we have hunters and outdoor enthusiasts out in our woods. Not only [do they] help manage our large deer population and keep a healthy herd by working alongside Georgia DNR, but hunters also play a key part in funding research and advocating for our wilderness areas. As we grow and expand into our beautiful North Georgia mountains, it’s the outdoorsmen and women who play a role in caring for the woods and advocating for these special places.” – Caitlin Brunson, Canton resident

EXPLORING CHEROKEE’S TRAILS AND PARKS

MOUNTAIN BIKING

As summer wanes and cooler temperatures prevail, cycling enthusiasts find their way to the Cherokee County mountain biking trails, which cater to riders of all levels. Our mountain biking community is notably family friendly, encouraging younger enthusiasts to participate. This support is especially evident at Rope Mill and Blankets Creek, where seasoned riders respect eager learners on the trails, avoid high-traffic areas with kids, or hang back to allow younger riders to practice their skills.

Located off Sixes Road, Blankets Creek offers a diverse experience with seven interconnected trails featuring jumps, drops, and significant elevation changes. Blankets Creek offers beginner trails such as Mosquito Flats, all the way to expert level trails such as Van Michel and South Loop.

Farther south, Olde Rope Mill Park is home to the Taylor Randahl Memorial Bike Trails and offers three courses with an exhilarating mix of rocky terrain and flowing trails along Little River.

Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association [SORBA] Woodstock, serving primarily Woodstock and Canton, is working alongside the county to bring more mountain bike trails to the area through a proposed park expansion. This initiative may expand into the Ball Ground area in the coming years as demand for additional trails increases.

When asked about Cherokee County’s tight-knit mountain biking community, Dan Thrailkill, Woodstock resident and SORBA main treasurer, shares, “There are a ton of people in Georgia who visit our area because of these trails. They’re easily accessible, relatively close to Atlanta, and offer trail diversity, so it’s not all the same type of trail. The board of SORBA Woodstock has done a great job of pushing the envelope in terms of what’s considered standard for mountain biking trails in our area. There are some jumps that you’re not going to see anywhere else in Georgia.”

HIKING & MIXED-USE TRAILS

As the leaves shift to brilliant shades of red, orange, and gold, the area unveils a colorful canvas that draws hikers and explorers alike. Among the most well-loved trails are Blankets Creek and Rope Mill, which offer various winding trails catering to outdoor enthusiasts.

Other local trail sites include Etowah River Park, accessible off Brown Industrial Parkway in Canton, and J.B. Owens Park, off Hickory Road in Holly Springs, which are mixed-use and open to pedestrians and cyclists. The 1.6-mile Noonday Creek Trail that runs through downtown Woodstock is a popular choice for biking, running, and walking and is a leisurely stroll that’s perfect for beginners or walkers of all ages.

There’s no arguing that Cherokee County comes alive with outdoor activities during fall and winter. Whether you’re an avid angler, a passionate hunter, or someone simply seeking to explore the outdoors, the region has something for everyone. Bundle up, gear up, and embrace the crisp air and natural beauty of Cherokee County during this splendid time of year.

This article was originally featured in Enjoy Cherokee Magazine’s November/December 2023 issue. Visit the website to read the entire publication online.

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